September 20, 2017

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January 8, 2022

FIRST Rapid React 2022 Kickoff

Melissa Domen Comments are off

Congratulations everyone! We have officially started build season, how exciting! The entire team has spent the past few meetings rereading old game manuals to help prepare for this year’s game. On January 8th 2022, the FIRST organization revealed this year’s game/challenge, so this week is all about kickoff. We spent the morning watching the kickoff live stream presented by FIRST, which explains the rules of this year’s game, Rapid React. The game Rapid React is themed around how to improve the transportation of products and transportation systems.

Later in the day, we read through the new manual to lead us into the kickoff of this challenge. Evaluating the game manual is a really great way to help the new members get an idea of how the games and competitions run.

The main objective of this year’s game is to score as many points for your alliance as possible. Each alliance of three robotics teams start on opposite sides of their tarmac, with 15 seconds of autonomous game play. During this time, robots may score as many points as possible by scoring their preloaded cargo balls and collecting additional cargo. For the last 2 minutes and 15 seconds of the match, robots can continue to score cargo in the two hubs in the middle of the field with high school drivers controlling the robot. When the match is about to end, the two alliances can attempt to climb as high as they can on their hanger at the end of the match. Check out this short video to learn more about competition!

Understanding and evaluating this year’s challenge sparked brainstorming from the entire team, who are eager to begin this project. Before we officially broke into our sub-groups, we spent time as an entire team, which provides an opportunity for team bonding. Team bonding is essential for productivity and success for the team. The entire team spent a great deal of time discussing this project and learning more about each other, as well as the game.

Written by: Melissa Domen & Ryann Keefe

Redbird Robotics Team was a finalist at an off-season competition at Salem Community College.

The last time Allentown High School’s robotics team Redbird Robotics competed in-person was early March 2020 at Hatboro-Horsham Senior High School in Pennsylvania. A year and a half later, Redbird Robotics continues to perform with flying colors at Salem Community College in New Jersey. On Oct. 16, the team became finalists at the off-season competition.

Last school year, the competitions changed from in-person to a virtual setting. Redbird Robotics participated in a variety of skill challenges using the same robot that was finished being built before March 2020. Last year, the team won the Industrial Design Award.

Additionally, one of the team’s mentors, Nikki Stout, became a Woodie Flowers Finalist Nominee. The Woodie Flowers Award is given to a mentor who is a positive influence, motivates, and challenges students to always strive to accomplish their best.

Also, Melissa Domen became a FIRST Dean’s List Nominee, which is given to a student to recognize their leadership and dedication to FIRST. She was nominated for her commitment as Business Lead on Redbird Robotics, founding the True North Robotics teams at Stone Bridge Middle School, coaching a local Girl Scout robotics team RoboGirls for four years, and traveling to Washington, DC to advocate for expansion of STEM programs.

Redbird Robotics is excited to see what the competition will look like for this school year. Each year in the beginning of January, FIRST announces a different challenge theme. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. FIRST is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspire students to find interests in engineering, technology, and communication by organizing robotics competitions for all grade levels from Pre-K through 12th grade.

After the announcement of the robot challenge, all high school robotics teams will have approximately six weeks to design, prototype, build, and program a new industrial-sized robot. Competitions will take place throughout March and April.

Currently, high school students on Redbird Robotics are coaching Stone Bridge Middle School’s competitive Lego robotics team, True North Robotics. The team was established last school year and made significant successes including advancing to the Southern NJ District Championships, earning the Robot Design Award, Breakthrough Award, and Rising All-Star Award.

Under the guidance of Redbird Robotics, True North Robotics will strive to make outstanding progress again during their competitions later this scho

RoboGirls, a team consisting of students from Allentown and Robbinsville, won the “Motivate Award” and Melissa Domen was named “Youth Mentor of the Year” for the third year in a row.

As an active Girl Scout and member of Allentown High School’s robotics team Redbird Robotics, I have always been an advocate for girls to get involved in STEM activities primarily populated with boys. Coaching RoboGirls, a FIRST Lego League (FLL) team consisting of Girl Scouts from Allentown and Robbinsville, since freshman year has been an amazing experience.

In FIRST Lego League, teams consist of 2-10 students from fourth grade through eighth grade. In each robotics season, FLL teams research a real-world engineering challenge, develop a solution, and compete with a Lego-based robot of their own design. Each robotics season has a new theme to the competitions.

This year’s season was called Cargo Connect, where teams explored how to improve the transportation of products and transportation systems. Teams are judged on four components: The Robot Game, The Robot Design, The Innovation Project, and Core Values.

For the Robot Game, FLL teams must design a robot to complete 18 different missions that are located on a flat table. Each mission is a different structure made out of Legos and represents a different type of exercise equipment. Teams score points depending on which missions and how many missions they complete. Teams must be strategic about which missions they choose to compete because the robot match is only 2 ½ minutes long and each mission is worth different points. This season RoboGirls designed and programmed a robot to complete 14 missions.

For the Innovation Project, FLL teams must identify a problem and create a solution relating to the competition theme of transportation. RoboGirls designed a pet harness called the Bella Belt to help safely and efficiently transport live animal cargo in a small aircraft.


On Saturday, November 20, 2021, RoboGirls celebrated their 3rd year participating in robotics competitions by competing in their virtual qualifying tournament against 24 like-minded teams. RoboGirls earned the “Motivate Award”, which is given to a team that embraces the culture of FIRST Lego League throughout team building, team spirit, and displayed enthusiasm.

“Robotics is about more than just robots. I’m glad to have my friends that I made along the journey,” says Victoria, one of the teammates on RoboGirls, “The Girl Scout motto of being a sister to every Girl Scout directly aligns to the FIRST Core Values of teamwork, discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, and fun!”

Melissa Domen earns the "Youth Mentor of the Year" award for the third year in a row.

RoboGirls’s success does not come overnight. The girls have worked diligently at least twice per week in-person and virtually since August alongside their youth mentors Melissa Domen and Emily Keller. Both youth mentors are especially beyond proud of witnessing the girls’ growth throughout the years and their appreciation for STEM. The RoboGirls are also excited that Melissa was named “Youth Mentor of the Year” for the third year in a row at the recent qualifying tournament.

As RoboGirls commemorates their current successes, they also look back from where they started. During their rookie year competing, the team won the “Rising All-Star Award”, which is given to a team that the judges notice and expect great things from in the future. They certainly lived up to the judges’ aspirations.

2022, Outreach
At the end of June, rising senior Melissa Domen participated in the 2021 8th Annual FIRST National Advocacy Conference (NAC). The purpose of the conference is to advocate for FIRST and the importance of STEM education to members of Congress and Senators. Melissa had participated in NAC for the past  three years. She had a great experience working with Robbinsville High School’s robotics team, Nemesis, to help them prepare for conferences since this was their first year participating. She helped Nemesis prepare presentation slides and speeches. Before meeting with members of Congress and Senators virtually, Nemesis and Melissa had the chance to learn about how government works, the importance of policy legislation, capital logistics, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Students on Nemesis and Melissa all had the opportunity to meet Senator Cory Booker’s Research Director, Congressman Chris Smith’s Legislative Correspondent, and Senator Bob Menendez’s Legislative Correspondent and Legislative Assistant. During the meetings, they advocated for an increase in funding for the Every Student Succeeds Act Title IV-A which increases access to STEM for students. These students were also able to share their robotics teams’ successes, along with the mission of FIRST, and the importance of STEM education. They will be following up with these Congressmen and Senators now and into the future for continued STEM support.
The two Stonebridge Middle School robotics teams (pictured) have help from the high school robotics team, including junior Melissa Domen (second from right), who founded the teams.

This year a competitive Lego robotics team was established at Stone Bridge Middle School. Melissa Domen, the business leader of the Allentown high school robotics team, is the founder of the middle school team. 

The name of the middle school team, True North Robotics, unites Stone Bridge Middle School’s motto of “Finding your True North” with the students’ passion for robotics. With the guidance of high school students on Redbird Robotics, 14 middle school students have learned programming, building, and teamwork skills, while having a successful rookie season this year so far.


On Feb. 13, 2021, True North Robotics did an outstanding job at the virtual Qualifying Event competition and headed to the virtual Southern NJ District Championship competition on April 10. The team received the Robot Design Award and the Breakthrough Award. At the Qualifying Event, the students placed fifth and sixth in the robot challenge game. At the Southern NJ District Championship competition, the students won the Rising Star Award and held an overall score well above the average for a rookie team.   

Participating teams were judged on four different components during the competition including the Robot Game, a Robot Design Presentation, an Innovation Project Presentation, and a Core Values activity. For the Robot Game and Robot Design, the team built and programmed two different robots made out of Legos to complete a series of obstacles in 2.5 minutes. For the Innovation Project, True North Robotics invented and created prototypes of special swimming gear to help prevent swimmer’s ear and a mobile gym to encourage everyone to be more active. 

In February 2020, Melissa Domen was awarded a grant by the Upper Freehold Regional Education Foundation to start True North Robotics.  Since middle school level robotics competitions have a limit of 10 team members per team, True North Robotics split into two smaller competition teams. One competition team is called True North Robotics Impact and has eight students (Aaryan Desai, Ioanna Varouhakis, Vishek Desai, Luke Greenbaum, Taylor Lalla, Elena Mathew, Theo Renzulli, Jeremy George) , and the other competition team is called True North Robotics Innovation and has six students (Sean Gavin, Mia Laudien, Remy Fortsch, Aarav Patnaik, Benjamin Utset, Sienna Jones). Each of the smaller group team names are named after the Core Values of FIRST: Discovery, Innovation, Impact, Inclusion, Teamwork, Fun, Coopertition, and Gracious Professionalism. 

The nonprofit organization FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. FIRST runs many types of robotics competitions for different grade levels from PreK through 12th grade. Both True North Robotics and Allentown High School Redbird Robotics are FIRST robotics competition teams. The True North Robotics’s competition level is called FIRST Lego League, and the Allentown High School Redbird Robotics’s competition level is called FIRST Robotics Competition.

What makes this team unique compared to other middle school robotics teams is that this team is 100% student run. Shane Conlin, Amelia Tricker, and Liam Granaghan are current Allentown high school students on the Redbird Robotics team and have been helping the True North Robotics team this season. Mr. Mark Guterl, Mrs. Stefanie Folino and Mr. Brian Myslinski have also been a great support for the team since its start. It has certainly been a team effort to get this team up in running with success. It has been quite an experience starting up a new competitive robotics team during a pandemic. The season kicked off in the summer of 2020 with online meetings. Students learned several skills like coding a robot, building robots, robotics competitions, the culture of the FIRST organization, and high school robotics. The end of the summer was also spent meeting in-person to build robots and obstacles made out of Legos. Safety measures such as social distancing and sanitizing were practiced at every single meeting. Both online and in-person meetings were held four days a week throughout the school year. Usually the competition season for middle school robotics starts in August and ends in December. But with it being a new team in a pandemic, this year’s season started in June 2020 and will be continuing until the end of April 2021. Soon, the team will start planning next year’s season.